SymTutor3: Practice Tool for
a Three-Zener-Card Spread

This page displays a simple, randomly-generated spread of three Zener (ESP) cards (in five colours: yellow, red, blue, green, & black), in conjunction with a brief description of a querent (the person for whom a reading is conducted) and a topic of interest. It is intended for study purposes, enabling readers to practice giving short readings for a variety of situations. The cards can be considered as aspects of the past, present, and future, or simply an interrelated group pertaining to the topic at hand.

To generate a new querent and card spread, simply click the “another reading” button. For maximum benefit, these practice readings should be spoken aloud, as they would be in a normal setting. If using cards with all-black symbols, simply ignore the displayed colours.

The classic set of “ESP testing” cards was created in the 1930s at Duke University (Durham, North Carolina), by perceptual psychologist Dr. Karl Edward Zener (1903–1964), who some three decades later would became Chairman of Duke’s Department of Psychology. The five symbols were designed at the behest of a colleague, Dr. Joseph Banks Rhine (1895–1980), a biologist by training, but best known as the founder of Duke’s parapsychology laboratory. More recently, it has been suggested that the pure, abstract nature of the Zener symbols is ideal for the delivery of divinatory readings to those who lack belief in—or are otherwise averse to—the more occult traditions.

The card images displayed above reproduce the symbol shapes of the first mass-produced packs created by Haines House of Cards under the auspices of Duke’s parapsychology laboratory, with five copies of each of the five symbols (i.e., a 25-card pack). They are coloured to reflect that depiction in some contemporary packs; those preferring the traditional black-only designs can simply ignore the colours presented here.

Little has been written on the use of Zener symbols for traditional readings. The richest source of information on their interpretation of which I am aware can be found in my Zenermancy (The Deceptionary, 2011). An interesting (and star-studded) Hollywood depiction of a Zener symbol reader can be seen in The Gift (2001), with the inimitable Cate Blanchett as the gifted psychic.

… Doug Dyment